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Minorities are Enrolling in College in Record Numbers: College Enrollment Rates Highest in 40 Years

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Foreclosure rates are at an all-time high, and the unemployment line is a grim reality that far too many Americans are experiencing personally. Some experts say that the United States is in a financial crisis while others call it an economic recession. Call it whatever you want, but the cold truth is that more people are struggling than thriving. In times of crisis, a new game plan is essential; in times of economic crisis, more and more people go to college in hopes of gaining a better-paying job.

In fact, data provided by the U.S. Department of Education showed a 6 percent increase in freshmen enrollment at 6,100 higher education institutions located across the country from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the first year of the recession. Six percent may sound insignificant, but it was the largest increase in enrollment since 1968—the height of the Vietnam War. A record 2.6 million first-time, full-time freshmen enrolled at four-year colleges, community colleges and trade schools in 2008— which was 144,000 more students than the 2007 freshman class.

Minorities and the Recession-Era College Enrollment Boom

Minorities and the Recession-Era College Enrollment Boom, a study released by the Pew Research Center on June 16th, reports that the record-breaking change in the size of incoming freshmen classes is mainly due to a large increase of minority student enrollment: nearly three-quarters of the increase came from minority freshman enrollment growth. Between 2007 and 2008, Hispanic enrollment at post-secondary institutions grew by 15 percent, African-Americans grew by 8 percent, Asians grew by 6 percent and whites grew by 3 percent.

Some of the increase in minority enrollment is simply due to the fact that the demographics of the United States are changing; the population of American youths is much more diverse than the population of American adults. This means that each and every new school year brings a slightly larger share of minority teenagers into the pool of potential college freshmen.

Another reason for this large increase in college enrollment? The National Center for Education Statistics found that the nation’s high school graduating class in 2008 is estimated to have been the largest ever with approximately 3.3 million students.

More importantly, more high school graduates are immediately enrolling in college than ever before. In fact, 68.6% of 2008 high school graduates were enrolled in college in the fall immediately after completing high school.

College Graduation Rates

The numbers are inspiring, how many of these college freshmen will actually graduate? College enrollment rates are at an all-time high, yet current studies show that college graduation rates aren’t all that great.

According to Minority Report, a February 19, 2010 Newsweek article by Evan Thomas:

“Studies show that more and more poor and nonwhite students aspire to graduate from college, but their graduation rates fall far short of their dreams. The graduation rates for blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans lag far behind the graduation rates for whites and Asians. As the minority population grows in the United States, low college graduation rates become a threat to national prosperity.”

Tips for Staying in School and Earning Your Degree

Enrolling in college is a step in the right direction, but actually completing a program of study and earning a college degree is harder than many students realize. Keep the following tips in mind if you are questioning yourself or struggling with your classes:

  • Create a graduation plan. Know which classes you will need to take and what order you need to take them in.
  • Set goals for yourself regarding each class. A minimum GPA is required to remain in school, but you won’t need to earn straight A’s in order to graduate. Be aware of your own academic strengths and weaknesses, and figure out which classes require more time and attention than others. Spend more time working on the classes which trouble you the most and less time working on the classes that you find easy.
  • Avoid the party scene. There’s no reason you can’t have fun every once in awhile, but students that engage in binge drinking and heavy partying have trouble waking up on time for class and often end up getting behind with school.
  • Use time wisely. If you are ten minutes early for class or your professor is ten minutes late, review assignments or catch up on reading. If you’re stuck at school anyway, you might as well make use of every minute you have.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take advantage of the student tutoring center. Go to the library and ask where you can find the information you’re looking for. Schedule a meeting with your advisor or a professor you respect and trust to discuss things if you’re having trouble.
  • Take a lighter course load if you are overwhelmed to the point that you are contemplating dropping out of school. Graduating in five or six years as opposed to graduating in four years is certainly better than not graduating at all.

Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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